So you’re attending your first gaming, anime, or entertainment expo, and you’re wondering what you need to know. “What should I pack for E3?” “What should I bring to Anime Expo?” “What will I need to bring to PAX?” No matter which event you plan to attend, the questions are all the same, and luckily, so are the answers.
Whether you’re attending a grassroots fan-festival in your local town, or flying out to a major city to attend one of the most popular gaming or entertainment expos in the world, these are the top 5 tips you need to know to make the most of your time there.
Book Your Accommodations Way in Advance
Big expos bring in big tourism bucks, and the surrounding hotels know it. You can expect to see huge spikes in hotel prices when the big entertainment expos come around, so make sure you book your stay as far in advance as you can. Hotels that might otherwise average $150 per night may be charging $400 a night when booking just a week or two out from the event, so make sure you give yourself one to three months — at least — to find a suitable hotel or Airbnb before booking your flight.
Bring a Portable Battery
Thankfully, the most common issue for expo, conference, and festival attendees has an extremely simple remedy.
While attending a gaming expo, you’re going to spend all day long walking around, taking pictures of booths and stages, capturing videos and snapping pictures with celebrities or cosplayers, texting your friends, and browsing social media while waiting in lines. Unless your phone is brand new, your battery isn’t going to last more than four to six hours, so you’ll want to bring a portable battery with you.
You can find plenty of cheap portable batteries on Amazon, most of which are capable of fully charging your phone, or multiple phones, multiple times in a single day. Grab one with USB-C fast charging capabilities, and you can even keep your Nintendo Switch charged for when you’re stuck in those longer lines!
This sounds like something your mom would tell you, but please don’t disregard what I’m about to tell you. When you’re attending an expo, time slips away from you. Six hours can go by in the blink of an eye, and you’ll be active the entire time.
You’ll spend an entire day walking, climbing stairs, attending panels, shopping, playing demos, waiting for trailer debuts, and meeting people, and when you’re that busy, it’s easy to neglect your body. You’re going to be much more active than usual, so you’re going to need more water than usual.
People falling ill due to extreme fatigue and dehydration is common at these types of events, and I can guarantee you that none of them thought that it could possibly happen to them. You don’t think it can happen to you, but it can, and it will. Pack a lot of water, and please drink it.
Look Up the Panels, Use a Map, and Make a Plan
If this is your first expo or fan event, it can be very tempting to “wing it.” You just want to go in, see all of the huge decorations and banners, preview some games or shows, possibly meet a celeb, and have a good time, right? There’s going to be so much to do, so you might as well just walk around and do whatever you want.
The thing is, there’s actually too much to do. Demos and premieres will have long lines that, unless you’re sporting a press or media badge, you’ll have to stand in. Popular panels with celebrity or developer guests have limited seating, and people will queue up for hours to get in. Large trailer premieres or exclusive game demos will be hosted in special halls or rooms with limited capacities.
You need to know what is most important to you so that you can plan your time accordingly. What’s your number one, can’t-miss event at the expo? Do you have to attend the panel where Hideo Kojima is talking about his latest game, or the panel where Akira Toriyama discusses his history with Dragon Ball? You need to know where the panels are being held, and when. Is it general admission, or do you need a special invitation? If you plan on going, find the location on a map, and go there as soon as you get into the expo center. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get a place in line.
If you show up to a popular panel or demo “on time,” that is to say ten minutes before it starts, you can forget about getting in.
You need some water and a portable battery for sure, and perhaps a few snacks. Bring your Nintendo Switch if you have to. Otherwise, you’re going to want to pack light for your day at the expo center.
There are two, simple, practical reasons for this. The first is that you’re going to be walking around and standing in lines all day, and your back and your shoulders will hate you if you try to lug around your laptop, camera equipment, books for signing, and other knickknacks. You’re also going to take up an annoying amount of space in lines and packed presentation rooms if you have a bulging pack on your back, so stay comfortable and consider others around you.
The second reason you’ll want to pack light is because you’re going to be doing some shopping. Whether you think you’ll buy merch or not, just trust me, you’re going to walk away with more than what you walked in with. You’re going to see a retro game in pristine packaging for a reasonable price. You’re going to find the perfect t-shirt. You’re going to fall in love with a new board game after its creator gives you a personal demonstration. You’re going to grab some free swag. There’s nothing worse than having to spend six hours carrying around boxes and bags, so leave your backpack nice and open for those spontaneous purchases.
Bonus Tip: Shower and Wear Deodorant
If you think I’m joking, I’m not. Gaming, anime, and nerd-culture expos have endured a foul reputation in the past for, well, smelling foul. Large groups of men and women show up to these things, and are not prepared for how quickly the time passes. You’ll wake up, and fall into a mad rush to pack your things and catch a cab to the expo center. You’ll spend all day and night walking, climbing, playing, and partying. You’ll fall asleep as soon as you get back to your room, with barely enough time to get a decent night’s sleep before waking up and starting over again.
It’s easy to neglect the shower because you don’t want to miss anything, but please, for the sake of everyone around you, take the time to shower. It’s gotten better in recent years, but there are still times when you’ll catch a whiff of the infamous “expo funk.” Don’t be one of the negligent people contributing to the stench.